BALTIMORE — The Baltimore Ravens reverted to the form they displayed last season, and now there’s one less unbeaten team in the NFL.
Looking to go 4-0, the Ravens overcame a myriad of penalties and mistakes to take a fourth-quarter lead against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday.
That only made their collapse down the stretch harder to take.
Derek Carr threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree with 2:12 left, and Oakland pulled out a 28-27 victory to drop Baltimore (3-1) from its perch alone atop the AFC North.
The list of Ravens’ mistakes was expansive. Ten penalties, a lost fumble and untimely mistakes by the defense were simply too much to overcome.
“We kept the pressure on ourselves too much,” coach John Harbaugh said.
Especially with the penalties. The Ravens were flagged for offensive holding five times, and Mike Wallace didn’t help matters by getting penalized for taunting after catching the 2-point conversion that made it 27-21 with 3:36 left.
“There were all different kinds of penalties, so you can’t sum it up or put it in one bag,” Harbaugh said. “You keep the pressure on yourself when you have that many penalties.”
One common element in the Ravens’ first three games was a slow start offensively. That trend continued, but this time Baltimore was unable to make up the difference.
Oakland led 14-3 before Joe Flacco directed a drive late in the half that led to a field goal by Justin Tucker, who remains perfect for the year.
Flacco eventually got the offense going in full gear, producing three touchdowns over the final 18 minutes.
It wasn’t enough.
“I wish we were where we need to be and putting up 30 points a game,” Flacco said. “But it’s just not there. To only put up six points in the first half, dig yourself a hole like that, then you have to play a perfect game.”
If there’s a positive to be gleaned, it’s that the Ravens finally got their running game going. With Terrance West gaining 113 yards rushing in place of Justin Forsett, who was put on the inactive list despite being healthy, Baltimore averaged 5 yards a carry and scored two touchdowns on the ground.
Give credit to the offensive line for that, but the unit had all sorts of trouble providing Flacco with adequate protection. He was sacked twice, repeatedly flushed from the pocket and hurried the majority of his 52 throws.
None of it would have mattered if the defense came up with a stop in the final minutes. Instead, the game was essentially a replay of last year’s matchup, when Carr produced a late touchdown to give Oakland a 37-33 win.
The Ravens thought they’d put those kind of games — and their 5-11 season of 2015 — behind them after winning three close ones.
“It’s very unfortunate for us because we had the opportunity to go 4-0,” linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “It hurts that we didn’t capitalize on the opportunity that we had, but it isn’t the end of the world. We aren’t going to let this distract us from our path.”